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UN agency warns thousands fleeing sectarian violence in Central African Republic

02-08-2014 06:33 BJT

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations refugee agency on Friday warned that the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has sent thousands of people streaming into neighboring countries.

The warning came at a time when the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced plans to open a preliminary investigation into alleged war crimes being committed amid the ongoing sectarian bloodshed.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said nearly 9,000 people have fled CAR for neighboring Cameroon.

"That brings the number of CAR refugees in Cameroon to more than 20,000 since fighting started," Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said, adding that the new arrivals told UNHCR that they fled because of confrontations between the former Seleka and anti-Balaka militiamen in the CAR'S capital, Bangui.

"Others fled because of fear that the anti-Balaka militiamen were advancing towards their areas," she added.

Thousands of people are estimated to have been killed in the CAR, and 2.2 million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid in a conflict which erupted when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels launched attacks in December 2012 and has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as mainly Christian militias known as anti- Balaka (anti-machete) have taken up arms.

Nearly half a million children are among the almost 1 million people driven from their homes.

Most of the people registered by UNHCR as refugees are women and children, including 43 pregnant women, 50 lactating mothers and 89 handicapped people in need of special attention. "The majority of them are Muslims who said they feared for their safety because of their perceived sympathy for the largely Muslim Seleka group," she said.

Meanwhile, from The Hague, Netherlands, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that after reviewing many reports detailing acts of extreme brutality by various groups and allegations of serious crimes, her Office will open a preliminary examination into the situation in the CAR.

"Over the past months, I have issued a number of public statements urging all groups in the Central African Republic engaged in the ongoing conflict to immediately cease the violence, and warning them that those alleged to be committing heinous crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the (ICC) could be held individually accountable," she said in a press release.

Underscoring that the plight of civilians in CAR since September 2012 "has gone from bad to worse," Bensouda said the information she has received concerning these alleged crimes and the profound human suffering they cause is deeply concerning.

Also on Friday, Farhan Haq, the acting UN deputy spokesman, said here that the UN secretary-general's special representative in the CAR, Babacar Gaye, met earlier in the day with the country' s interim head of state, Catherine Samba-Panza, for the first time since her election last month.

During the meeting, Samba-Panza said that the lynching of an alleged ex-Seleka combatant by soldiers of the national army on Feb. 5 in Bangui was unacceptable.

While welcoming Samba-Panza's determination of bringing the perpetrators of this act to justice as soon as possible, Gaye encouraged her to prioritize justice, reconciliation and political dialogue.



Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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